An area of frequent conflict

Crimea is an area of Europe which has experienced a huge amount of change and turmoil over the past few centuries. In the book of that name by Orlando Figes (read very well on audio by Malk Williams) the author talks about the history of the area and shows why it is important and how it has often been the battleground for the armies of European powers.

Obviously I knew about the Crimean War and about Crimea’s more recent history as part of Ukraine and its invasion and annexation by Russia but I had no idea about how many countries claimed parts of it and had an influence there over the centuries. I especially hadn’t understood the importance of religion in the conflict of the area or the claims of the Ottoman Empire. It also turned out that I didn’t know much about the Crimean war either.

This is an informative book which shows how Crimea was fought over, claimed, invaded and appropriated over the years by Britain, France, Russia, Turkey (Ottoman Empire) and Austria Hungary and the reasons why they claimed it as their own. I hadn’t really thought before reading this book about the area’s strategic importance either. Because I listened to this book rather than reading it I didn’t have a map immediately to hand which was disappointing as it would have helped me understand a few things better if I could have seen it whilst listening but I checked up on things afterwards and wasn’t too handicapped by the lack of visual aids.

Although the book considers wars and conflict the author doesn’t dwell too much on military matters but mainly describes the politics and strategy. There is quite a lot of content about individuals as well as nations and I found the descriptions of the conditions of the various armies during the Crimean War particularly moving.

I can’t say that I have retained all that I read in this book but I now have enough understanding of the area and its importance to enhance my understanding of European history in the last few centuries. I found the book to be well written and interesting and I am glad that I read it.

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